Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, center, and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar of Texas, right, visit Castner Range National Monument in Texas on March 26, 2022. (Courtesy of Interior Department/Public domain)
The U.S. Department of Interior has officially approved 28 replacement names for geographical features in Colorado that formerly used a slur for indigenous women, part of an effort to replace nearly 650 such places in the country.
The approval from the Board on Geographic Names on Sept. 8 is the last step in the process to remove sq*** from federal use. The word has been used historically as a slur for indigenous and Native American women, according to the department.
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The word’s removal has been a goal of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland since November 2021 when she established the process to remove it from the names of geographical features like waterways, mountains, valleys and other geographical features.
“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long,” Haaland said in a statement. “I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and the Board on Geographic Names for their efforts to prioritize this important work. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America.”
The renames range from including historically significant indigenous references to including nods to local flora and fauna. In Colorado, a pass in Clear Creek County was renamed Mestaa’ėhehe Pass after a prominent Native woman in state history, Owl Woman. A mountain in Routt County will be known as Petite Tetons at the suggestion of local ranchers. A summit in Dolores County was renamed to Sego Point after a local lily.
The Native Organizers Alliance applauded the conclusion to the nearly yearlong process.
“This racist, sexist, and demeaning term for Native peoples has no place in our public spaces and has caused harm to our people for decades. Our Native women are caregivers, knowledge keepers, and the backbone of our communities. They deserve and have demanded better. We’re happy to see the federal government take action to remove this word from use,” executive directory Judith LeBlanc said in a statement, noting that Haaland is in a unique position as a Native woman to understand why the word is harmful.
The Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force included representatives from the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service.
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